Painting Furniture: the One Dresser to Rule Them All

So, the next victim on my rampage of craftiness was my bedroom dresser. First was this shoebox, second was a magnet board frame (that is almost but not quite done), and third was this dresser. I think it pretty much crafted me out for the rest of the summer.

We found this dresser on Craigslist a year ago. It was perfectly functional, only $20, but not very pretty to look at (especially up close).

So I decided I was going to be all crafty, paint it white, and decorate the top with all the coolest pages from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The book I used was actually James’s first Christmas present to me from when we were dating. He wrote “For Nichole: To Be Cultured” on the wrapping paper because I haven’t ever read the series, and it’s his favorite series in the world. A few pages were falling out anyway, so I decided to immortalize the book in this dresser, which is basically now a family heirloom. It turned out really awesome, if I do say so myself.

Super-Fun Process That Took Longer than it Really Should have Because I’m A Craft Rookie:

1) I took the drawers out and unscrewed the knobs from the drawers and washed everything really well. It was scarily dusty.

2) I sanded everything because that apparently makes the paint stick better. The Home Depot Lady said a 220 grit sandpaper (or finer) would be best.

3) I did one coat of oil-base primer because of the veneer varnish originally on the dresser (a sort of glossy finish…I think that’s what the Home Depot Lady called it when I brought a drawer in to the store (I’ve never done any serious painting before in my life.)) It ended up all opaque and splotchy looking:

This was the worst part of the process. I was ready to paint after priming everything, but I realized that I had no way to clean my only brush, which was covered in water-resistant, oil-based primer. And the dresser looked generally terrible and streaky, and I was worried that the finished dresser would end up looking like that too. I moped around for a bit because I didn’t have a way to get to the store to by paint primer to clean the brush, then I started mod-podging the pages onto the top (more on this in a minute). My lovely neighbor came by and asked what I was doing and if I needed help, and I asked if she wouldn’t mind terribly taking me to the store. And she did! (Well, she didn’t mind, she did take me to the store…you get it.) She drove me to Home Depot for paint thinner and then to JoAnn’s fabrics for another bottle of mod-podge. She even helped me mod-podge more pages onto the dresser in the hot sun for a while.

4) I cleaned my brush as well as I could with the paint thinner and did a coat of paint that made everything look much better. I waited the recommended two hours for the paint to dry and then did a second coat.

5) I poured some mod podge onto the top of the dresser and plastered book pages to the top of the dresser. I was sure to tear out the maps and pages with poems or cool runes or signs. I made sure nothing really cool was covered up but pretty much stuck the pages whichever way I felt like. I used a hard rubber roller over the pages to make them as flat as possible. I’m planning on really using this dresser, and I didn’t want stiff page corners getting caught on things. After papering the whole top (which took a lot longer than I thought it would–at least two hours), I covered it all with a final coating of mod-podge.

For one side of the dresser, I let the pages fall a little onto the side. I could have tried to cut the pages so they ended with the top of the dresser, but then I worried that the pages wouldn’t stay down as easily. And I’m not that precise with a rotary cutter. So I made it intentionally shabby and crooked because it will look better and last longer.

For the other side, I used a great idea that my husband had: to put pages down the side like they were falling off the dresser. I did the same uneven border as I had done on the other side, but added the two pages partway down the side, one of them folded so it would look like it was falling through the air.

6) Finally, I put three coats of a water-based varnish over the whole thing, the drawers, dresser, and papered top (two hours between coats, just like with the paint). Well, technically, my super helpful sister put one coat on, but the end result was three coats. This stuff was great and really smoothed out a lot of the unevenness of the page mod-podging. James helped me bring everything back inside and upstairs, I put the knobs back on the drawers (couldn’t find good replacement ones), and we both admired it and took a million pictures. See?

I did the whole project over two days while James was at work; it took probably 15 hours altogether. It was really sunny out too, so I got a bad sunburn on my right knee and upper calf (weird, I know). Totally worth it though. James and I love the way that it turned out.

My next project is already half done, but it’s much smaller than this. And it will probably be my last project for a long while. Crafts are never as easy in real life as they seem on Pinterest.


Bein’ All Crafty: Mod-Podging a Shoebox with a Dictionary

So, in my wonderful, summer off-time of no school and no work, I’ve decided to actually try some of the projects I’ve been drooling over on Pinterest. I started an account on Pinterest for a Digital Culture class (best homework ever!), and I’ve become slightly addicted. I thought about starting one of those “365 Days of Pinterest!” blogs to make myself do something productive, but this project has made it very clear that forcing myself to be super crafty every day would make me crazy in a week and might end with the whole of southern Utah drowning in mod-podge. So this “crafty” thing will become a third-tier hobby once school starts again. It will stay second tier right now due largely to boredom (but still behind things like reading awesome books, cleaning, writing my book/essays, and wasting hours on the internet).

But here’s my first, successful Pinterest mod-podge project. This is the shoebox that my new tennis shoes from this post came in.

I’ve been using it to store the random assortment of cords and headphones and memory cards and electronics I find around the house. (You know, maybe I should make photography a second-tier hobby as well; these pictures could use some help.) I wanted to decorate it so it didn’t look so…shoe-boxy. And lime green. So I bought a dictionary at DI and ripped it up and did this:

Now it looks all vintagy and stuff! It took waaaay longer than I thought it would (almost 2 hours to do the whole thing), but I had nothing else scheduled, so I guess it wasn’t a big deal. It’s a little more wrinkly than I wanted it, but I like how it turned out.

As you can see below, there is a beaver on it! And a bagpiper. And a bassoonist on the side. And a suit of mail and an intestine that I accidentally ripped in two but pasted both pieces on.

I rather like how it turned out.

I plan to do the same sort of thing to the top of my really old looking dresser I got on Craigslist. I’m going to use the copy of Lord of the Rings that James got me for our first Christmas together; it’s falling apart anyway. And now that I’ve practiced on this, the technique will hopefully turn out better on the important project: the one dresser to rule them all…DUH DUH DUH!! Coming soon…(relatively…)

All My Rage – Laura Marling

This post has nothing to do with Russia; it’s just an interesting song that I recently re-found in my youtube “like” list. I have no idea where I first heard of it, and it’s pretty different, but I like it. Sort of folksy. Still have no idea what it means…

Apologies in advance; just ignore the creepy dolls in the video.

(Music starts at about 0:16.)

Laura Marling – All My Rage

Tea Time in America

My electric tea kettle finally came in the mail! Look, isn’t it adorable?

It can boil 1.2 liters of water in 2-3 minutes and just generally makes me feel very sophisticated. I expect that it will get a lot of use in the near and far future.

Anyone remember that post where I claimed I was bringing back the Russian tea tradition to America? Well, I did. I said I would bring home “between 50 and 500 individual tea bags” because they’re so much cheaper in Russia (and they have really good brands there). I lost track of how many boxes I actually bought, but I have probably 400 tea bags. And I bought 6 or so types of loose leaf tea at this dear little tea shop I found in St. Petersburg. I walked in looking for Greenfield’s Rich Camomile, but they only sold loose leaf. The lady behind the counter asked me what I wanted and then started pulling out all of their herbal and fruit teas for me to smell. Absolutely divine, really. We made Russian small talk and she sold me 50 grams of the kinds that I liked and some disposable tea bags to steep the leaves in. There was a guy working behind the counter, too, but the only thing he asked me was if I was Swiss. Apparently my backpack (a hand-me-down from Kaye) had the Swiss flag on it. So I mostly talked with the girl. Oh, and the tea shop had really cute bags. Shopping/grocery bags in Russia are generally a notch above American ones, in my humble opinion. They don’t break nearly as easily, so people will keep reusing them. These ones were black with fairy-like purple flowers and swirls on the front. Wait! No, the purple ones belonged to the candy store down the street. These were just black ones with gold writing. Pretty thin for a Russian bag, too…

Anyway, I would love to find an herbal/fruit tea shop in Provo. We’ve got a hookah shop, I’m sure we’ve got a tea shop around here somewhere. Something else to look for on my runs. I really want to try and replicate this tea that I tried my last day in Nizhny. It was at an Uzbek restaurant (the kind with cushions and low tables instead of chairs). The tea was called Peaceful Day, I think. I wrote down most of the ingredients in a notebook I had with me: apple slice, mint, fennel (I actually have no idea what this one is), lemon, melissa, hibiscus, and heather (and I just had to translate this one from Russian because I didn’t know it). I don’t think I’ve tried a heather tea yet, so that might be the key. If I ever go back to Nizhny, I’m going to ask them where they get it or how they make it.

Anyone reading have any favorite herbal or fruit teas to recommend? I’m always game for trying new ones. And if anyone’s in Provo right and wants to sample my tea collection, I’m pretty free for the rest of the summer. Just call me up or leave a comment or something.

Posted in Tea

First Salon Haircut

I got my hair cut yesterday! And it was my first time getting it cut at a salon; usually my wonderful aunt just cuts it for me.



I cut off a whopping 10 inches for donation and then got some shorter “face framing” layers in the front (whatever that term really means). You can barely see them (partly because the lady curled my hair afterwards for fun), but they do make me feel more fashionable. And it’s super nice to have shorter hair for the summer. Like, incredibly, really nice. Hair down to my waist was quickly becoming more of a burden than anything. And now that it’s shorter maybe I’ll feel up to curling it occasionally. Who knows?

New Name, New Purpose

As a few of you might have noticed, I’ve changed the name of the blog. I’ve changed its purpose, too, although that’s much less obvious. I’m back home in America now, have been for almost two weeks. Last week I was kept busy with my husband’s kidney stones, but this week I’ve been thinking about what to do about the blog. I didn’t get to write half of the things I wanted to about Russia because of time constraints, but I still want to record a lot of those thoughts. Today I had an epiphany about how to keep this blog going honestly (you know, without me writing while pretending I’m still in Russia).

Here’s the (long, convoluted, stream-of-conscious) story.

I went running today for the first time in a long time. I wanted to try out my new running shoes that I bought last week (lovely, by the way). After two months in Russia, my old running shoes were not worth the suitcase space I saved by chucking them. I almost started my run with McDonald’s as the end goal. You know, reward myself for my hard work. For obvious reasons, I was not quite happy with that and decided just to explore the city a little bit. Yes, explore Provo, Utah. Exploring cities is something that I learned to enjoy in Russia. Wandering wherever the colors call and reading signs and making observations felt like learning in a foreign country. So I thought, Why shouldn’t it feel the same way in America? I’ve lived in this city for over 4 years, but I have no idea what it really has in it. On my mere 25-minute run I found a beautiful Victorian-styled brick building (The Discovery Academy, I believe), wooden overhangs draped with tropical flowers, tacky dalmatian gnomes planted around a fire hydrant in the middle of a yard, and arched windows that I would have taken pictures of had they been in Russia (I wish I had brought my camera). While running/walking home, I started thinking how strange it was that things seemed to merit more attention just because they’re far from home. If those windows deserved a picture in Russia, they darn well deserved a picture in America.

And then I got really excited because I knew what to do. I trained myself to think about things differently while I was in Russia. I tried to take nothing for granted. I was always wondering about the backstory, the characters, the reasons and whys behind things and people. So I’m going to try and keep that up here. I’m going to try and keep up my running with the purpose of exploring Provo rather than run a certain distance or time each day. And I’ll still write about things that I never got to say about Russia.

So basically this blog will become an odd, philosophical, eclectic, mix of Russia and America, my days of traveling and my days of normality. Before, it was about an essayist living in Russia; now, it’s about the new and improved essayist that has come out of Russia.